Archive for School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

A New Head for the Old School

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , on December 13, 2016 by telescoper

Just a brief post to pass on the news (which I just heard this morning) that the University of Sussex has now formally announced that Professor Philip Harris will be taking over as Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex, the position I held until this summer.

I worked a lot with Philip during the time I was at Sussex as he was Head of the Department of Physics & Astronomy for part of that period. I’m sure he’ll do a great job and I wish him – and indeed the whole School – all the very best for the future!

Incidentally, the news item announcing Philip’s appointment contains the following snippet:

Both departments are ranked first in the UK for graduate prospects in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2017 (Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education Survey, 2015-16), with 100% of Mathematics BSc students being in work or further study within six months.

I wasn’t aware of this interesting news before today, and I’m sure it will provide a boost to the School’s efforts in the currently rather challenging student recruitment market. Of course Philip Harris can now take credit for anything good that happens to the School, whereas if anything goes wrong he can always blame it on the old Head of School!


Leaving Party

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , , on July 20, 2016 by telescoper

As regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Bonkers) will know, I’m about to leave my current job as Head of School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex. Although I don’t actually finish here until the end of the month, there was a small gathering in the School this afternoon to celebrate the fact that I am leaving. Here is the cake:


This was accompanied by Prosecco, opened in dangerously explosive fashion by Philip Harris, who will be taking over as Acting Head of School after my departure. As such he will be responsible for Health and Safety in the School. I hope he fills in a risk assessment before attempting to open any further bottles of bubbly! I got a lovely gift of a pair of champagne flutes, although I haven’t managed to play any music on them yet.

I’ve also been inundated with gifts by Dorothy Lamb, my Head of Schools Coordinator. Dorothy arranged a special treat for me this morning, in the form of a private screening (in the Attenborough Centre) of my favourite film, The Maltese Falcon. I’ve seen this film dozens of times on TV or on DVD but never in the cinema, so this was a very nice thought. Here’s a still from the movie, which reminds me for some reason of the Senior Management Group:


At this afternoon’s cake and wine party, Dorothy also read out a poem what she wrote, which I reproduce here (including a preamble) in the hope that literary agents and talent-spotters might be reading this blog:

Those of you who read Peter’s blog will know that he regularly posts poems by Stevie Smith, Emily Dickinson, Wordsworth and others, plus occasionally his own work. The last time I wrote a poem was when I was about 8 years old and it was published in ‘The Brownie’ so I thought it fitting that, frighteningly, almost half a century on, I should pen another.

To Peter Coles, aged 53 and almost one sixth
Known for a passion for the cryptic,
Let’s hope his departure is not apocalyptic.
A northern gent in whom we trust,
An honest man, some say robust;
A wealth of knowledge, awesome talent
And, as a boss, sublime, transparent.
With Coltrane, Cohen and Humphrey Bogart
He is not backward in going forward.
With diphthongs, datives, gerunds and such
Though untrepanned, he’ll give the heads up.
A Newcastle lad up at Cambridge
Prosecco chilling in the fridge,
He truly does explain things clearly
Though I’m still ignorant of quantum theory.
He always seems to stay clear sighted
Except when it comes to Newcastle United.
A crossword never left unsolved,
An over never left unbowled,
The poems of the good and great,
The Miss Lemon drizzle cake he ate;
And every due respect he paid
To his trusted Midlands maid.
And so we say farewell to Peter,
Though this poem has the strangest meter,
Whilst lexicons fill every space,
An emptiness will take his place,
A smile of sadness on my face.



Opportunities in Mathematics, Statistics and Probability at Sussex University

Posted in Education with tags , , on April 16, 2016 by telescoper

It seems a good time for a quick post to point out that we have some jobs available in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Sussex. These posts have been made available following the University’s annual strategic planning process, in which it is one of my main responsibilities as Head of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences to put forward plans for future developments. The new positions are intended both to expand and diversify our research base in Mathematics and Statistics, but also to provide additional teaching effort given our expanding student numbers.

When I arrived at Sussex three years ago the number of academic staff in the Department of Mathematics was just 15. We made a number of appointments in 2013 and these further posts will take it up to 25, which is still quite small by UK standards. Our strategic plan is to get staff numbers in Mathematics up to around 30 by 2018. In fact, applications by potential undergraduates to do Mathematics courses at Sussex are up by a whopping  80% this year, and if this turns into a large increase in intake then we will be looking to make further appointments very soon.

Anyway, here are three jobs with links to adverts:

  1. Lecturer in Statistics and Probability
  2. Senior Lecturer or Reader in Statistics and Probability.
  3. Lecturer in Mathematics.

Please follow the links for more detailed descriptions of each job and further instructions on how to apply. The closing dates for all three jobs are 17th May 2016; we plan to interview selected candidates in June or July.

Feel free pass this on to likely applicants!



MPS 2015 – The Photograph

Posted in Beards, Biographical with tags , on October 15, 2015 by telescoper

I’ve been on the go since 8am today, so I’m going home earlier than usual (i.e. before 7pm). I have just got time before I go to share this picture of  staff of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex taken one sunny day in September.

MPS Sep 2015

I am proud that in my role as Head of School I have provided such effective leadership. The number of beards has clearly increased since last year!


Sussex University Memories – MAPS in 1989

Posted in Biographical with tags , , on June 24, 2015 by telescoper

I was at a meeting this afternoon doing some planning for a nice event coming up next month – of which more anon – when I was reminded of this photograph, taken one sunny day on the University of Sussex campus way back in 1989. It shows staff of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences which was MAPS, acronymically speaking, in those days; now it is MPS. The picture is taken from a very interesting website of the history of physics at Sussex.


I was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Astronomy Centre in those days. I wonder who can spot me in the picture?

Pass List Party

Posted in Biographical, Education with tags , , on June 12, 2015 by telescoper

Well, just as it happened last year the pass lists for students in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex went up at noon today. Students and staff started to gather a bit in advance and we also made a few preparations for the celebration with bunting to welcome people into Pevensey 2…

pass_list party well as food and refreshments indoors:

Pass_list_part 2

We had toyed with the idea of having a barbecue, but reckoned that was taking too much of a chance with the weather. Of course it turned out fine.

When the results were wheeled out there was an immediate scrum accompanied by plentiful popping of Prosecco corks.

pass _list_party 3

I made a short speech to congratulate all our students on their success and then handed over to the Head of Department for Physics & Astronomy, Prof. Claudia Eberlein, to announce the prize winners. I had to leave at 12.30 to attend the University Senate which always takes place on the last day of term. When I came back the party was still going on, and there was even a little bit of booze left. There had been one or two glitches, including me signing one of the lists in the wrong place necessitating the printing of another copy and also some of the progressing students were accidentally omitted from one of them. That latter event caused a bit of consternation but was all remedied quickly.

We had another excellent set of results this year so the students can be justifiably proud of their achievements. I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate them again and I look forward to presenting the graduands for their degrees at the Brighton Dome in a month or so.


Thirty years a graduate..

Posted in Biographical, Film with tags , , , , on June 4, 2015 by telescoper

Today got off to a bad start when Radio 3 swtiched on shortly after 6am with a Concerto for Two Harpsichords. Since even one harpsichord is one more harpsichord than I can tolerate, I switched it off immediately and went back to sleep. When I finally got going I arrived at my usual bus stop (at Old Steine) to find it taped off and out of service. The wreckage of a burnt-out bus at the stop provided the obvious explanation. I therefore had to walk all the way up to St Peter’s Church to get a bus up to campus. I got here just in time to have a quick coffee and head off to an two-hour long Joint Planning Meeting with the School of Engineering and Informatics.

All things considered this wasn’t the best start to a birthday I’ve ever had, but at least I now have time for a celebratory cup of tea from my birthday mug.


Thank you to Miss Lemon for the lovely present – as regular readers of this blog (Sid and Doris Bonkers) will know – the Maltese Falcon is my favourite film.

Anyway, I only have a brief respite because this is a very busy part of the academic year. Next week we enter the time of the Final examination boards where we have to classify the degrees of graduating students. While I was lying in bed recovering from harpsichord-induced schock this morning I realised exactly 30 years ago I had just finished my own final examinations. In those days they were very intense, six three-hour papers in just three days for most students. I got off lightly because I did a theory project which I could substitute for one paper. It was still quite exhausting though. Can that really be thirty years ago?

I remember the grand plans I had to celebrate the end of my finals, especially since they coincided to closely with my birthday. When the time came, however, I was totally exhausted and just ended up having a few beers and crashing out. That’s probably what’s going to happen today too…

Anyway, must get on. Time to prepare for this afternoon’s meeting of the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences Executive Committee. Another two hours. What a way to spend a birthday…